Jakarta – Indonesia's trade surplus shrank in March from a month earlier amid robust export growth and imports of raw material and machinery picking up the pace, presenting the latest indication for its economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic slump.
The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced on Thursday that the largest economy in Southeast Asia posted a trade surplus of $1.56 billion in March, down from $1.99 billion a month earlier.
Exports rose 20 percent from February to $18.4 billion, BPS data showed. The exports were 30 percent higher than they were in the same month last year. Imports reached $16.8 billion, up 27 percent compared to February, or 26 percent from March 2020.
BPS said it was the nonoil and gas trade that contribute most to the surpluses.
Shipments of non-oil and gas merchandise increased to $17.5 billion, up 21 percent from February, or 30 percent from March 2020, contributing to the lion share of the trade surpluses, BPS said. The non-oil and gas imports rose to $14.5 billion, up 21 percent compared to February, or 25 percent compared to March 2020.
That translates to $2.94 billion in trades that exclude crude oil and gas shipments. Indonesia, however, still posted a deficit in the oil and gas trade balance, buying the commodities worth $1.37 billion more than it sold.
Still, the latest trade data remain encouraging, with imports of raw materials and machinery picking up, suggesting businesses ramping up production to fulfill rising demand.
Raw material imports rose 26 percent in March from a year earlier to $12.9 billion, while machinery imports rose 34 percent to $2.4 billion, BPS data showed.
The imports data was consistent with the IHS Markit Indonesia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a monthly manufacturing expansion or contraction measure in March.
The country's PMI was at 53.2 in March – the highest reading since the survey began in April 2011 – increasing from 50.9 in February. Any reading above 50 means expansion.
"The Indonesian manufacturing sector ended the first quarter of the year on a high, with firms ramping up production in response to the strongest influx of new orders in the decade-long survey so far," Andrew Harker, the economics director at IHS Markit, said in a statement.
"These positive results add to hopes that the sector is on a fast upward trajectory, with the obvious caveat that the Covid-19 pandemic could hit back at any time," he said.
The three largest suppliers of non-oil and gas imports during the January-March period were China ($12 billion), Japan ($3.1 billion), and South Korea ($2.34 billion). Non-oil and gas imports from Asean countries reached $7.16 billion and from the European Union $2.41 billion during the three-month period, BPS data showed.